England’s first week in South Africa has veered wildly from the intended script, with Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach all struck down by illness and yet to take the field in either warm-up match.
Five other players and staff have also been unwell, including Denly, but none badly enough to join the trio in lockdown at the team hotel. England have been concerned enough to draft in Somerset paceman Overton and his county colleague Bess – who spent time on loan at Yorkshire this summer – just a few days before Christmas in a bid to swell their ranks ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Centurion.
Yesterday, against South Africa A, Denly was not just fit but firing. He knocked up 103 in his side’s 337-5, the first time he has reached three figures for his country, albeit in a game that no longer carries first-class status after a request from the depleted tourists.
“I don’t think I’ve had it quite as bad as some of the boys, just a mild case of man flu I think,” said Denly.
“It was fluey symptoms, bunged up, headaches... a bit under the weather. It was quite a sapping heat to be batting out there so I was a bit tired before the end but I’ve loaded up on medication and vitamins and I’m feeling all right.”
The 33-year-old was better than all right for most of his time at the crease, striking 15 boundaries and putting together a chanceless stay until his late run out.
Ollie Pope was even more fluent as he raced to 70 not out, while Rory Burns (56), Ben Stokes (47) and Joe Root (12) were dropped four times between them.
Overton and Bess join up with the team this morning after an overnight flight, and could conceivably play some part over the course of the weekend, but England will be keen to get Broad and Archer up and running.
Report: Page 6